Sunday, March 5, 2017

Hikes, Not Bikes in Watchung Reservation

On Tuesday, hikers will speak out on a plan to allow mountain bikers in the currently tranquil Watchung Reservation.

The Union County Department of Parks & Recreation will present the Watchung Reservation Trails Master Plan at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Trailside Nature & Science Center, 452 New Providence Road, Mountainside. Thirteen and a half miles of new trails restricted to mountain biking will be constructed. Portions of the Sierra Trail and other existing trails will be shared with mountain biking.

Not knowing a lot about mountain biking, I just viewed a video on and I can see how it is incompatible with hiking on foot and nature study. Mountain biking emphasizes speed and high-impact tricks that are the polar opposite of the hiking experience.

Our own Billy Toth often shares his hiking experiences on Facebook, showing beautiful vistas from parks around Central Jersey, including many from the Watchung Reservation. He is quoted extensively in the Courier News today in a front-page, A-1 over-the-fold story that lays out the hikers' specific case against mountain bike use in the Reservation.

If you agree with him, give your input at Tuesday's meeting or let your Union County freeholders know how you feel about having mountain bikes being permitted in the Watchung Reservation. The news article notes that when given a chance in 1995-96, "reckless wheelers blew the opportunity because they frightened hikers and horses with sudden approaches and didn’t work to maintain the trails."

The article states that other nearby counties have mountain bike trails, so fans of the sport do have choices. Must the Watchung Reservation be despoiled for the sake of this raucous sport? I personally share Billy Toth's reverence for the natural world and agree that mountain biking is incompatible with hiking and nature study.



  1. Bernice,
    You're turning into Tim Priano - please get some knowledge from more than just one biased source before publishing stuff like this. Mountain biking is not exclusively about rowdy idiots loudly tearing up the trails. I frequently ride my bike quietly and peacefully in a natural setting, as is my right. I don't care that other counties offer mountain bike trails. I live and pay a lot of taxes in Union County and will not be excluded based on your misconceptions. I'm personally aware of many mountain bikers responsibly using and volunteering substantial amounts of time to maintain trails throughout the state. The problems don't come from one group or another - all human and equestrian use degrades the trails and interferes with the natural state of things(for example horses leave deep ruts from their hooves along with manure all over the trails). The real issue is with inconsiderate people in all groups - I see walkers and hikers on multi-use trails (D&R Canal towpath, Middlesex Greenway) all the time obliviously walking dead center down the path with earbuds on - they never hear the bike bell, and have no right to complain about being frightened by a biker. They're shocked that other people may actually be on "their" trail, and have never considered staying to one side, or leaving the headphones off. I have also seen bad behavior from bikers and horse riders riding 2 abreast blocking everything, or not warning walkers when they approach. If all people were considerate and aware, these trails paid for by all of our tax dollars could be enjoyed by all.
    I also have a deep reverence for the natural world (by the way, I hike as well as bike) and find it outrageous that with your five minutes of research have determined that what I do is incompatible with nature. Exclusion of non motorized vehicles and finger pointing is silly. There is room for all to coexist. Thank you for making me aware of the meeting. I will be there to make my opinion known.
    James Burton

  2. you mad bro?

    -The Ghost of William Hetfield

  3. Hikers and other union county residents who don’t agree with the mountain bikers talking points are not uninformed and we are definitely not a small vocal minority – there are over half a million residents of Union County and I would wager that the number of informed Union County Mountain Bikers advocating for bikeways in the watchung reservation is the smaller vocal minority.
    I have been involved in trail maintenance – I have helped to maintain the NJ Pochuck Mountain portion of the Appalachian trail and know what proper non invasive foot trail maintenance is about - this type of pleasurable hiking foot path is not suitable for sharing with mountain bikes and horses.
    Biker trail maintenance consists of turning these lovely scenic narrow foot paths into characterless wide bikeways by removing obstacles to bikes, cutting the understory, and rerouting trails for the access and convenience of the bikers.
    The creation of these trails will not have a positive impact on the WR – there will be massive soil disturbance and disturbed soil = invasive plants = forest degradation and destruction. Invasive plants are the current largest threat to the health of the WR forest – japanese knotweed and barberry being two of the worst. There is not an effective forest stewardship program in place.
    I am a Mountain biker myself and I can attest from experience that most off road bikers are courteous and abide by the rules – but there are plenty of bikers who will be ‘bombing the woods’ going off trail and be on the equestrian and hiking only trails – they are constantly on these trails now.
    There are mountain bikers beside myself who are opposed to this plan and are content riding in the 21 other New Jersey parks listed on the JORBA - Jersey Off Road Biking Association website that are in lower density population areas and are not as heavily used.
    Bikers like to complain that they pay taxes and should have access – They have the same right to use the park in every way and as often as anyone else – it is ATVs, dirt bikes and mountain bikes that are prohibited.

    William Toth

  4. Dear Friends,
    The Union County Freeholders have set up a comment space on the proposed 13.5 miles of new mountain bike trials to be constructed in the untouched parts of the Watchung Reservation.…/…/watchung-reservation-trails-master-plan/
    Please register your objection. You are not posting a comment, you are just sending a message to the Freeholders.
    Don't forget the meeting tomorrow night at the Trailside Center at 7 p.m.
    Charlie Weltner

  5. A forgotten tail [pun] of the Watchung Reservation is the battle of Route 78. Construction through the parkland held up commuters for years in the 1970's, while supply a private driveway to the few towns between Route 287 and Watchung Boro. One major concession was the Animal Only bridges over the roadway [they may be observed as you drive as they appear to be so overgrown] to insure the traverse of deer. From which hordes have descended to the Central Jersey area.

  6. What happens when all terrain vehicles take over the trails? Also I hope no one falls into the forgotten copper mine. Desserted Village no more.

  7. Separate trails for the bikes would solve this conflict of interest... anyone that still argues no bikes I think is just being self centered and greedy or just wants to "win" the debate. I do see how bikes can be disruptive on hiking only trails and I ride a bike too. In Florida they have a great system, there's some shared trails, generally old jeep roads or wide paths, there's some hiking only trails usually too dense to even want to ride a bike on, there's equestrian trails and then there's bike only trails which frankly wouldn't interest me to hike on either. It's a very fair system and one I hope Watchung adopts.